How to best power mini PC/TV sticks

5v3apsuPowering up a mini PC, particularly the higher-powered dual- and quad-core models, is creating a bit of controversy at the moment, with some users wondering how to best do it. One option is to provide the mini PC with its own power supply unit (PSU) and use another PSU on the USB powered hub. The other option is to just have one big PSU to do the lot.

Part of the issue is the ability of most mini PCs to supply and retrieve power over the USB ports, in addition to having a dedicated miniUSB port for external DC power. The data-transfer ports – whether they are the main Type A port or the small OTG miniUSB option – can also be used to power a mini PC.

But in practice, running two PSUs shouldn’t be a problem – it’s something that happens every day with desktop computers. Think about for a moment – you have a desktop PC with its own PSU connected to and hosting via USB a printer with its own PSU.

Where it becomes troublesome is where one PSU is insufficient to handle its own task. This can happen, say, if you try to power a quad-core mini PC with a 5V/1A phone charger and load up a powered USB hub with a couple of portable USB drives. That’s why it’s important to power your mini PC with a decent PSU. We’d recommend you choose at least a 5VDC@2A power adapter for the mini PC and a 5VDC@3A unit for the powered USB hub. It doesn’t take too many portable USB hard drives to find anything smaller than a 3A PSU struggling under the load.

The USB standard allows external power supplies so provided the standard is implemented correctly in your powered hub, peripheral devices and your mini PC, you can use one PSU for your mini PC and another for your powered USB hub. The other issue is that finding compact 5VDC PSUs with more than 3A of current isn’t easy. They’re not that common. To handle everything comfortably, you’d need a PSU delivering 5VDC @ 5-6A, especially if you have a couple of portable hard drives you want powered up as well. By contrast, 5VDC@2-3A PSUs are quite common.

In the end, it all comes down to how you power up the mini PC. The lazy way is to use the data USB port connected to your powered USB hub. This works but relies on your powered hub to deliver power. Mini PCs all have their own specific power port, typically a miniUSB port, specifically designed to allow dedicated power to be provided just for the mini PC. Feed your PSU into this port and it shouldn’t have problems if there’s another PSU connected to your USB hub.


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